Wenceslaus was born near Prague in the year 907. His father was Duke Wratislaw, a Christian, and his mother, Dragomir, a pretended Christian, but a secret favorer of paganism. One of twins, Wenceslaus was raised by his grandmother, St. Ludmilla, while his brother, known as Boleslaus the Cruel, was raised by their mother. Jealous of the great influence which Ludmilla wielded over Wenceslaus, Dragomir instigated two noblemen to murder her. She is said to have been strangled by them with her own veil. Wratislaw died in 916, also at the hand of assassins, leaving the eight-year-old Wenceslaus as his successor. Acting as regent for her son, Dragomir actively opposed Christianity and promoted pagan practices.
Urged by the people, Wenceslaus took over the reins of
government and placed his duchy under the protection of Charlemagne’s
successor, the German Henry I. Emperor Otto I subsequently conferred on
him the dignity and title of king. However, his German suzerainty and
his support of Catholicism within Bohemia were vehemently opposed by
some of his subjects and a rebellion ensued.
After the virtuous
monarch married and had a son, the king’s brother Boleslaus, seeing
himself displaced from the direct succession to the throne by his
nephew, joined the rebellion. At the instigation of their mother,
Dragomir, Boleslaus conspired with the rebels to murder his royal
brother. In September of 929, Boleslaus invited Wenceslaus to celebrate
the feast of Sts. Cosmas and Damian with him. The king accepted, and on
the night of the feast, said his prayers and went to bed. The next
morning, as Wenceslaus walked to Mass, he met Boleslaus and stopped to
thank him for his hospitality. Instead, the jealous brother stabbed the
king and held him down as other traitors killed him. King Wenceslaus’s
last words were addressed to his brother. “Brother, may God forgive
you!” His body, hacked to pieces, was buried at the place of the murder.
years later, having repented of his deed, Boleslaw ordered the
translation of his brother’s remains to the Church of St. Vitus in
Prague where they may be venerated to this day. The martyr-king is the
patron of Bohemia, Hungary and Poland.